Slopes and embankments can be used as road or railway embankments, raised flood banks and floodplains, and even vineyards, especially in a territory such as Italy, one of the countries with the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage landscapes in the world.Many of those greened terraces are true reinforced earth structures, with their stability guaranteed by a well-tested construction technique.
Stability for slopes and embankments
Reinforced earth structures are retaining works that allow slopes and embankments to be supported, including steep slopes. They do not involve the use of concrete constructions, which would be more detrimental to the landscape.
The soil has a natural capacity for compressive strength. When combined with geosynthetic grids (which have excellent tensile strength), they create a stable system, as the features of the two components provide a high-performance composite.
The open mesh structure allows reinforcement geogrids to develop passive resistance along the transverse ribs, as well as creep resistance of the geosynthetic grid in relation to the soil. The TeMa Geo Solutions range includes X-Grid geogrids, available in a variety of models depending on the type of project.
How to position the geogrid in the layering of a terrain?
Each slope needs to be carefully and expertly engineered. However, in addition to the need to reinforce the raised earth structure with geogrids, it is essential to ensure surface erosion control using synthetic or natural erosion control mats and shaping with electro-welded wire mesh formwork.
The X-Grid geogrid must be applied to each ‘block’ of soil supported by the formwork, positioned between the backfill soil and the erosion control mat. An external wrap-around part, measuring no more than 150 cm, must be provided for the formwork system by installing formwork stiffening ribs approximately 30 cm apart.
- Foundation soil
- Metal formwork
- Erosion control mat
- Backfill soil
- Grassed surface
Reinforced soil walls have proved highly popular in recent years and are produced wherever possible, taking the place of concrete-faced soil retaining wall systems.
Employed in a range of different environments, they bring significant advantages, both financial and environmental. Indeed, unlike concrete-faced soil retaining wall systems, they:
- are sustainable because they give a vegetated finish;
- are a great space-saving solution, with slopes as steep as 80° (compared to the 30-40° of natural soil embankments);
- result in less pollution given the smaller number of trucks required to carry construction materials;
- make use of the excavated earth for backfilling, provided it is compatible with stability standards, meaning no more material needs to be brought in;
- blend seamlessly with their surroundings once the slopes are grassed over, without becoming a blot on the landscape of our villages.
Whatever the case, before planning the work, there are a number of aspects and data to be taken into consideration.
Preliminary data needed
To start with, all essential technical information must be procured in order to be able to assess the feasibility of the project, such as:
- geological testing of the area on which the wall is planned to be built
- topographical surveys
- meaningful cross-sectional drawings showing the current condition
- geometry of the planned wall (face angle, height, division into tiers, slope on top)
- external loads applied to the structure (top loads in the event it needs to accommodate a car park or a road)
- what earthquake risk zone the area is in
- geotechnical properties (angle of shearing resistance, cohesion and density) of the earth behind the future wall, of the foundation soil, and of the backfill
- whether there are perched aquifers or seepage of a different nature.
At this point, the next step is to check design calculations using specific software.
Checking design calculations
Checking is performed to assess both internal and external stability. The following tests are carried out in the former case:
- reinforcement strength test, which assesses possible failure mechanisms and determines the spacing, length and tensile strength of the geosynthetics due to be laid
- pull-out test to check that the reinforcement applied does not break or slide out
- direct sliding test, to ensure there is no translational movement across the installation planes
- wrap-around test, to ensure that the length wrapped around the top of each individual layer is stable.
The checks to be carried out during the project’s execution to assess external stability consist in sliding, overturning, bearing capacity and global failure analysis.
Do you want to chat with one of our experts to find the solution that best suits your requirements?
We have 30 years of experience in the industry and can give you access to materials and solutions offering specific performance. Contact us!
Do you want to learn more about the full TeMa Geo Solutions product range for reinforced earth structures? Click here.
Longer days, milder afternoons, a great desire to spend time outdoors and perhaps get some physical exercise, but also go to work and school or visit a friend… These are all good reasons for using, when available, cycle and pedestrian paths, possibly far from urban traffic.
The advantages of sustainable mobility
We are increasingly talking about environmental sustainability and the physical and psychological benefits of physical exercise:
- Less air and noise pollution caused by traffic.
- Reduced transport costs.
- Greater freedom of movement.
- Enhanced green areas in cities.
- Better quality of life by doing a bit of sport on a daily basis.
TeMa Geo Solutions for safety and urban benefits
‘Unequipped’ roads can be hazardous for those who choose to get around by bicycle: for this and environmental reasons, cycle and pedestrian paths are the ideal solution, as they are increasingly becoming part of local government mobility plans.
TeMa Geo Solutions offers all its experience by combining reinforced earth structures and their feature of being green, with cycle and pedestrian paths.
An embankment can be made or a road widened with its sides sloping at 65°/70° using the T-System (consisting of formworks, X-Grid PET geogrids and K-Mat FG Green erosion control mats as facing), thereby making the path safe and allowing a slope to turn green again. Making a slope green again provides a natural erosion control function: to encourage it, TeMa Geo Solutions recommends installing natural or synthetic mats. To make the structure stable, the T-System for reinforced soils adopted by TeMa involves using X-Grid PET geogrids.
For the extension works at the Serravalle Retail Park shopping centre in the Piedmont region, we helped the company choose the solutions to implement and assisted with verifications.
The area covering about 2,000 sqm required some intervention work regarding reinforced earth structures and drainage. In particular, we undertook the preliminary work for extension works dating back to 2016.
To the south-west of the building, the soil was secured and then surfaces were replanted with greenery.
Let’s see how this was done in more detail.
Type of intervention
In order to make the slope in front of the complex secure, the intervention work involved constructing reinforced earth structures in several banks, more specifically 3 modules of 6 m in height each.
In addition, to manage the water coming from the hydro-geographic basin situated upstream of the area, specific surface drainage works were carried out.
The solution from TeMa Geo Solutions
For the reinforced earth structure, 3 modules were constructed with anchorage lengths of 7 m and a strength of 110 kN/m provided by X-Grid PET PC 110 geogrids.
As for drainage, instead, a Membrana Nera Geo was used, the 8 mm HDPE studded membrane bonded to a filter nonwoven geotextile with a PE slotted tube at the base.
The drainage system was also installed at the horizontal contact points of each berm to prevent future water seepage into the reinforced earth structure.
Soil erosion is an almost inevitable natural phenomenon that has become a greater concern in recent years due to the worsening climate situation – in Italy, for example, 132 extreme weather events were recorded between January and July 2022, a higher number than the annual average over the last decade – combined with long periods of drought.
Strong winds, heavy rain, hail and runoff tend to remove the surface layer of exposed soils, which often include organic matter and seeds. Climate change facilitates erosion, making it not only inevitable but also hazardous if left uncontrolled.
It’s essential to counter or mitigate the phenomenon: soil provides us with food, biomass and raw materials; human activities take place on it and it’s part of the landscape and our cultural heritage.
Which structures are more subject to surface erosion?
The areas of application most affected by the erosive action of the climate are:
- slopes and the sides of landfills and contaminated sites, and those that have been grassed for appreciable aesthetic improvement;
- reinforced earth structures, more specifically terracing in vineyards and the embankments of canals or rivers;
- ascending/descending ramps from flyovers, tunnel entrances and noise barriers on roads and railways;
- dry, rocky slopes, of all angles, that shape the terrain of Italy.
The effects of surface erosion
The uncontrolled removal of the surface topsoil and the failure of vegetation to take root results in ‘thinning’ of the soil and a risk to the stability of sloping areas.
What can be done to prevent surface erosion?
We should begin by pointing out that a case-by-case assessment is required that considers many variables, such as the nature and uniformity of the soil, the slope gradient, the type of slope (dry or rocky) and the weather conditions in the area where intervention work is to be carried out.
In general, vegetation, whatever type it is, has a natural ability to protect soils from erosion. So the best course of action is to quickly encourage grassing and then apply biodegradable mats made of jute, straw, coconut and cellulose fibre, which can also be pre-seeded.
TeMa Geo Solutions recommends biomats such as Ecovermat, Ecovermat P and PC, and Ecovernet.
Alternatively, or combined with these, synthetic geomats, mainly made of polymer monofilaments, can be used.
Once laid, they are covered with another layer of soil: in this way, the roots of growing vegetation will become entangled with the geomat, creating an almost permanent erosion protection system.
Once again, TeMa Geo Solutions offers a wide range of geomats to choose from.
Uncertain about what to choose? We can help you. CONTACT US!
Hearing the noise of traffic outside your window all day long is irritating and distracting and, in the long term, also harmful to your health.
This is why the WHO and a number of laws govern the use of noise remediation systems in cities: the Framework Law no. 447 of 1995 for Italy and the European Directive on Environmental Noise no. 49/2022. If the cause of the noise cannot be addressed, the solution is to install protective barriers. Various kinds can be used, but in this case we focus on reinforced earth structures that require specific measures, which we discuss here.
What do reinforced earth noise barriers consist of?
For this type of embankment with its typical trapezoidal shape, earth is used that will be covered by vegetation over time. Geosynthetic reinforcements and geogrids are added to support the earth, which already has good compressive strength. These are inserted horizontally into the ground and develop friction and tension that stabilise the structure, increasing its resistance to stress.
The TeMa Geo Solutions offer includes the X-Grid Pet PVC range of geogrids, with different resistance values, which are ideal for all kinds of contexts.
Another aspect to bear in mind is surface erosion of the soil: to counteract this, synthetic geomats are applied, also with a mulching function to encourage the growth of grass cover, or natural fibre bionets.
Also in this case, TeMa Geo Solutions offers a wide choice ranging from Ecovermat F Grass and Ecovernet FJ to the K-Mat range.
Why use a vegetation barrier as a protective noise barrier?
A vegetation barrier has an unquestionable ability to limit the spread of sound waves: some of them are absorbed, some reflected and some deflected. As a result, the amount of sound waves reaching the receiver is greatly reduced and noise can be dampened by several decibels.
The advantages of a reinforced earth sound-deadening barriera
Creating reinforced earth structures brings considerable advantages:
- it costs less because you can often use earth available on-site
- no special maintenance is required other than regular trimming.
- it helps the environment and integrates with it: the use of vegetation also reduces vehicle emissions by absorbing CO 2 and purifying the air.
In recent years, reinforced earth structures have been particularly popular in projects due to their excellent functional and aesthetic importance in the residential building and public building industries.
Such intervention works achieve the best results by allowing the soil and geosynthetics to “work in synergy”, each one with its own features of ensuring the stability of the work as a whole.
It’s easy to see the high environmental value of such solutions, but let’s take a closer look at the two major factors in reinforced soil works. In this way, we can understand how and why, working together, they lead to amazing results, also in aesthetic terms.
What are reinforced earth structures?
They are structural intervention works in various gradients and dimensions aimed at retention and/or stabilisation. We can identify a few main areas of application:
- Road and railway embankments.
- Restoration and consolidation of collapsed soil on a road.
- Construction of ramps for ascending and descending flyovers.
- Canal or river bank elevations.
- Rockfall barriers.
- Noise barriers along roads or railways.
- Widening of elevated car parks.
- Construction of terracing systems in vineyards.
- Soil consolidation at tunnel entrances.
What are geogrids and why are they often the best solution?
Soil has the intrinsic features of friction and compressive strength, but practically no tensile strength. This is not enough to ensure the stability of a structure.
Major slopes, weather conditions, proximity to embankments, etc. can erode soil, causing landslides and subsidence. For reinforced earth structures, it’s therefore necessary to use geogrids, two-dimensional structures horizontally inserted into soil, which integrate with it without deforming. Their open-mesh structure develops “passive” resistance, thereby increasing the stabilising effect.
This bonding exploits the abilities of the two construction elements, making the entire structure more efficient.
Naturally, the feasibility of retaining works needs to consider:
- the intrinsic characteristics of the soil, such as grain size, the degree of thickening and shear strength, as well as the dilatancy phenomenon;
- the characteristics of the geogrids, such as tensile strength and stiffness, the use of raw materials (polymers) that can also withstand harsh chemical and physical conditions (attacks by chemical agents, soil pH, etc.), and the appropriate geometric structure.
Eventually, grass will grow and none of the intervention work will be visible: a really attractive and natural reinforced structure. In addition to its aesthetic function, greening also plays an important role in helping the natural friction of soil.
Find out more about our products here.
Our passion for work does not stop, it simply continues at our company, in a little more limited way. You certainly cannot see us running up and down building sites or going in and out of our research labs, but we can assure you that we are still working on our production of geosynthetic products with the same commitment and perseverance in order to formulate new projects and develop ideas that we will see materialised soon, once everything has ended.
TeMa and Geosynthetic Products
TeMa Geo is the TeMa division created almost thirty years ago with the aim of exploring and expanding the world of geosynthetics, which it still does today. By “geosynthetic products” we generally mean all categories of synthetic coverings that are not only used in contact with earth or other building materials but are also appreciated for their use in various building fields. In the building industry, their main advantage is that they are user-friendly in technical terms, which is why engineers and planners prefer them to other technical solutions.
The Advantages of Geosynthetics
The advantages of geosynthetic options not only lies in the fact that they are easy to use but also in their cost-effectiveness: certainly less expensive, they provide excellent performance that remains unchanged over time. Furthermore, their versatile use makes them the ideal solution to various on-site problems.
Geosynthetic Products “In the Field”: the Serravalle Project
In more practical terms, today we want to tell you about the intervention works we carried out in the Piedmont region in 2016. It involved extension works for Serravalle Retail Park. In preparation for the works, we had to make the slope in front of the new complex safe. In order to proceed, we had to prepare several reinforced soil structures, separating them into banks, and solve the problems of surface drainage for the management of water, whose catchment area was located above the area.
For works of such magnitude, we used geogrids from the XGrid PET-PVC range as a structural element. In addition, to avoid any seepage in the future, drainage elements were installed close to the reinforced structures of the horizontal sections of each berm. This is just one of our products and one of the many fields of application explored by TeMa.
To discover all our membranes, visit our section dedicated to products.